Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Of Goggles and Veggies

Sources deep inside the Greek dynasty have recently relayed information regarding a groundbreaking concept pioneered by the young Stephen. Reportedly, the young man in question has discovered that the act of cutting steamed potatoes becomes significantly easier when the cutter is equipped with high-powered swimming goggles.

The idea apparently originated after an encounter with an unruly set of onions left the aforementioned gentleman in tears, despite his valiant attempts at restraint. Necessity being the mother of invention, his penetrating mind soon found a solution. The best, however, was yet to be. Further experiments revealed that the success of swimming goggles extended far beyond the emotional world of onions, and the rest was history. Family members testify that Stephen utilizes swimming goggles during the entire duration of his daily kitchen duty.

The previously unreleased photo below demonstrates the only known food item that is not particularly improved by the use of swimming goggles. Readers are asked to note Stephen's outstretched tongue, the distinguishing characteristic of a Greek in deep concentration.

Paradise Lost

As a new rebelutionary, I had been trying to put the principle Do Hard Things into daily practice. Soon, however, I got a taste of a REALLY HARD thing; no, not merely a taste: rather my whole head was violently and forcibly plunged in. Not quite what I was expecting. Here's the story, drenched with humorous sarcasm and bitterness:

One very late Saturday morning, I was reclining on my bed waiting till somebody got the bright idea of making breakfast, which usually happens on Sabbath mornings. I had picked up Louisa May Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN and was reading quite comfortably. My happiness on finding the word 'ubiquotous' in my readings was violently cut short by the ominous sound of Sarah's footsteps ascending the staircase.

Had I known what was at stake at this moment, and had I known what was best for my ultimate health and happiness, I would immediately have sprung from under the covers and hurled myself upon the hard carpet of my bedroom floor. Then I would have squeezed myself into the six inch black hole between my bed and the aformentioned floor, in which all kinds of mystical creatures and horrible monsters dwell. I should have hidden there till my ominous morning messenger had departed, and then rolled out from my hiding place covered in cobwebs, spiders, mystical creatures, and dust balls, to happily continue my musings. Or, if my whole self repulsed at the thought of going in to that deep dark dungeon of mine, I ought to at least have pulled frantically for the covers, choked, screamed, yelled, and attempted all kinds of frightening utterances - anything to not let Sarah have her way. Or, if nothing else, I should have pulled the covers over my head and pretended to be fast asleep.

At 10:45 in the morning? Yeah right.

But, as I was foolish enough to believe that Sarah was the bringer of glad tidings, I refrained from doing the above mentioned things.

Big mistake.

In barged Sarah, dressed for physical exertion. "Abigail, I'm going on a bike ride, I'm leaving in two minutes, and you're coming with me!"

"Oh. Well, it's so nice of you to include me, Sarah. I appreciate that very much. You really have no idea what that means to me, but I'm afraid I must decline ...."

"No. You're coming with me."


My diplomatic words were cut short by the sound of my door slamming, causing the glass to rattle in the window. I crawled out of bed, stared in utter disaster at my dishevelled apearence in the mirror, and listened in despair to the diabolical sound of Sarah's sneakers squeaking down the stairs.

Now, for those of my readers who are deprived of the blessing of an older sister, I pause to describe a certain simple concept that younger sisters face on a day-by-day basis.

Big Sister:
"Do all my chores for me."
Little Sister: Has no choice but to do it.

Big Sister: "Clean my side of the room too."
Little Sister: Has no choice but to do it.

Big Sister: "Pay my college tuition for me."
Little Sister: Has no choice but to do it.

I'm sure you get the picture. Big sisters don't speak in multiple choice commands.

Anyhow, back to the story. I changed quickly, slipping on a light jacket. Then I rushed downstairs in a futile attempt to persuade Sarah to seek a second opinion (that opinion being my own, naturally) on this rash comand of hers. But, being the hard-hearted, stiff-necked, loveable big sister that she is, Sarah stood her ground and refused to be swayed in any way.

I pulled out my old bike, the one that fitted my 7 year old brother perfectly, (why, oh, why didn't I get a newer one?) and pulled out after Sarah. Just when we were passing out of sight of the warm house, I suddenly came to grips with the desperate situation with which I was faced. It was nearly 11:00 AM and I hadn't had any food or drink since the night before. My bike was too small, my shoes were too small, and here I was, pedaling after Sarah. I was about to go on a long bike ride through dense woods, down steep cliffs, through creeks and sandbars, splashing through mud puddles, up big hills, and past who-knew-whats lurking from the forest. This wasn't any nice little bike ride on flat pavement. Dear readers, this was riding through ten miles of Ozark backroads that no car can go through, or has been through for a couple of years at least.

So, as I was saying, suddenly I came to grips with the horrendous scene I was faced with.
I paniced. Who wouldn't?!

"Sarah! Wait up!"

"Not a chance! Don't be such a slowpoke!"

"Sarah, why are we going on this bike ride? This is bizarre!"

"Well, I had this dream. About five miles down this trail, there is supposed to be a beautiful tropical paradise with big orange flowers, soft grass, monkeys, and waterfalls. I'm going to see if I can find it!"

"WHAT!?!? Sarah! Are you kidding?! That's, that's, that's..... pathetic! INSANE! Come on! Wake up to reality, for crying out loud!"

"Don't worry sis. It'll be there."

I felt like screaming. Actually, I felt like turning around, but I didn't dare.

I pedalled after Sarah, remonstrating with myself for allowing her to bring me along on this foolish goose chase. But I kept on. I couldn't turn back now, could I? I skidded down the hills - cliffs I should say - and tried to keep from flipping over head first down the ridge.

I grumbled, complained, and tried to think of something that would drive Sarah to be sensible. Big sisters sure are frustrating sometimes. Or is that an understatement?

Finally I resolved to be optimistic in spite of my trials. I imagined riding back to the house while crowds cheered wildly, impressed with my courage and determination. I smiled. This was encouraging! I began humming "Hail the Conquring Hero Comes" to the tune of "Deck the Halls".

Hail the conquring hero comes
Falalalala, lalalala
Hail the conquring hero comes
Falalalala, lalalala

Suddenly something my head, and my imagination bubble was blown to bits. That'll never happen. It's just a long dreary hard 10 mile long bike ride. If circumstances are pessimistic, don't pretend they are delightful, Abigail.

I felt like screaming once again. This couldn't be happening. Two miles later I spoke up once more. "Sarah, um... I'll get wet when I cross the river."

"No, you won't. It's easy! Go like this." She demonstrated.

"But my bike is alot smaller than yours."

She laughed bad-naturedly. "Hurry up!"

I sighed and went - and ended up getting halfway across when my bike stopped. I pushed my bike the rest of the way across the creek, soaking my shoes.

My now wet shoes sunk into the sand on the other side and became coated with sand - as did my bike tires. My bike being hard to steer, I began to believe that it would fall apart any second.

I imagined myself staring at small pieces of rubber, bolts, steel pipes, iron coated wires, copper thingies, and whatever it is that bikes are made out of. I imagined calling out to Sarah that my bike was broken, but she wouldn't hear me because of her earphones. She would just disappear around the corner in that brand-new bike of hers that she guards so jealously. Being miles from home, with the broken bits and pieces of what used to be a bike surrounding me, I would sink down in the sand. Then I would sit down and cry because my horrible sister had dragged me out of my comfort zone and pitylessly left me here, starving and destitute. I ...

"Abigail, hurry up!"

I looked up, glanced at my bike, and realized that I was having a day-mare. Sweet relief!
"Sarah! Don't leave me behind! Please! Help!" I frantically hurried to catch up, begging her to turn around.

She didn't listen. Her eyes were glazed over. She was paying more attention to her cassette tape than me.

Sarah face was all smiles. We were rounding the bend where her tropical paradise was supposed to be. She eagerly peered through the trees, expecting any moment to burst in on that lovely land. I shook my head remorsefully. Too bad it wouldn't come true. A tropical paradise sounded incredibly inviting at that moment. We rounded the bend. It wasn't there.

Shocking, I know. Who would have expected that? Her paradise was lost. But then, it had never existed in the first place.

Sarah stared around bewilderedly, her dreams shattered to shards all around her; but stubbornly she refused to accept it. "Maybe we should go a little bit farther. It's gotta be here somewhere!"

"Sarah, it's not here. I could have told you that before we started on this pathetic goose chase! And as for looking for it more, NO WAY! I am doing no such idiotic thing!"

Disappointed and hungry, we turned around and started the long journey home. Eager to return, I mustered up my last iota of remaining strength and passed Sarah. I started pedaling fast, attempting to dodge through the mud puddles that lay in my path.


I slammed on the brakes, mud splattering all over me. Sarah, riding right behind me, slammed on her brakes. But not fast enough. She skidded into me, sending me and my bike into an uncomfortable tangle right smack in the middle of the biggest mud puddle in the whole road.

"You ok?" she asked non-chalantly.

"I'm 10 miles from home, starving, tired, lying in a mud puddle .... yeah Sarah, I'm doing incredible!" I thought sarcastically, but instead I rubbed my neck and looked around for the culprit. There! I saw a big thorn branch swinging out over the road. I groaned, and kept on rubbing my neck in an attempt to lessen the searing pain. Slowly, I crawled out of the mud.

"Well, it did make a pretty cool cracking noise," I mumbled dryly in an poor attempt to be optimistic.

Sarah chuckled bad-naturedly and rode carefully on the other side of the trail, reminding me of the pharisee. Then she started back down the trail while I disentangled myself from the bike, still rubbing my neck. "Thanks for the help." I muttered.

Poor mud-caked little me.

Riding on, I felt like a fruit that had just been dipped in a big fondue pot full of rich brown chocolate.

Chocolate! YUM!

But as usual, there were a couple problems with my theory.

#1.) Mud is not a good substitute for chocolate.
#2.) Was I going to be eaten?

OH! So hungry!

I alternated between rubbing the stinging pain in my neck where the thorns had ripped, rubbing my sore back, rubbing my red ears which were stinging from the cold, and steering my bike. Exhausted, I kept on pushing my bike down the old trail, tired and weary.

Sarah, apparently trying to prove herself to be a nice big sister, let me borrow her tape recorder and headphones to warm my numb ears. She was listening to the Psalms. I pressed PLAY.

"I said "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes.""

"Um, Sarah, you can take it back now."

Not feeling particularly encouraged, I pedaled on.

After a long and tiring ride back across the creek and up several steep cliffs, we finally reached sight of the house. Never had that sight been more welcome to me, but I was too exhausted for romantic exclamations and pasionate cries.

I skidded to a stop in front of the house, dragged myself up the porch stairs and fell onto the couch, weary and forlorn.

There was my wonderful family, with their hands at their hips and their faces anything but pleasant. A chorus of "WHY are you late for breakfast young lady?!?! ..."IT'S NOON!"... We waited for you for TWO HOURS so we could have breakfast!!!" ... "WHERE did you all go?!?!?!" ... "Don't you EVER do anything like this again!" ... (etc, etc, etc.) met my ears.

I was too exhausted to even hear them and mumbled an 'Oh, sorry.' I crawled weakly back into bed completely exhausted and barely conscious, trying not to faint before reaching safety. I barely heard Sarah cheerfully exclaim downstairs "Oh, but we had a wonderful bike ride!"